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Aston Martin DBR1, Chassis #3, Nürburgring 1,000 km, 1958

  • The culmination of David Brown's pursuit of international sports car dominance, the DBR1 project made good in 1959, winning the 24 hours of Le Mans and scoring enough points to help Aston Martin win the manufacturers championship. At that point—during his speech following Aston's world championship victory, in fact—David Brown announced his firm's retirement from team-sponsored sports car competition, shifting all racing development to Formula 1.
  • Aston Martin developed the DBR1 as early as 1956, and yet improved the project through just four works examples. These four cars, supported sporatically by a fifth, and lone, privately owned DBR1, were all the cars that were made. Help also came from older DB3S cars that were rapid and reliable enough to fill points-paying spots, if not quick enough to take outright victory. But on the whole, Aston Martin achieved a lot with very few resources.
  • This example, Aston Martin DBR1/3, won the 1,000 km race at the Nürburgring in 1958, driven by Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham. This victory would be the car's top contribution to the works team, followed by a third in the Goodwood Tourist Trophy later that year courtesy of Carroll Shelby and Stuart Lewis-Evans. In 1959 the car caught fire at Goodwood, pictures of which can be found online. As with most of the DBR1 cars built by Aston Martin, DBR1/3 continued to race through the early 1960s. That all five cars survived, given motorsport's high attrition rate, remains remarkable.
  • The strength of the DBR1 rests in its power-to-weight ratio, providing a directness of handling response that gives the car exceptional quickness and roadholding. Aston Martin realized the car's potential once the original 2.5 litre motor was replaced by the 254 horsepower 2.9 litre unit. A one-two finish at Spa in 1957, and back-to-back wins at the Nürburgring 1,000 kilometers in '57 and '58, identified the 3-litre DBR1 as a superior machine on twisty circuits.
  • By 1958, international sporting regulation capped motor capacity at 3 litres, which meant Aston Martin was in prime position for a run at Le Mans. The capacity limit ended Jaguar's three-year reign with the D-Type, and positively stopped Maserati's charge with the 450S, arguably the fastest and most powerful sports racing car of the time. The change also ended Aston's development of the 3.7 litre DBR2, which would have taken the fight to Jaguar's late series 3.8 litre D-Type. So Aston Martin relied on the DBR1, whose main competition was the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. The Ferrari is slightly lighter than the Aston and, thanks to its single overhead cam V-12, produces about 50 horsepower more. The Aston is perhaps more mechanically advanced. But, because of Aston's withdrawl following the 1959 season, only '58 and '59 would see the two firms battle head-to-head.
  • For victory at Le Mans, particularly against Ferrari and Jaguar, the DBR1 would need to add speed. Streamlined versions were developed out of chassis #2, #3, and #4. And so, with a sprinting rabbit strategy dutifully fulfilled by Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman in this car here, chassis #3, Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori won the race outright in chassis #2. I included a depiction of the Le Mans configuration in this set, as the three chassis fitted with streamlined fairings for Le Mans were subsequently returned to their original bodywork.

 

Last Updated: Aug 24, 2017